Are Your SAT Scores Good Enough?

Learn what selective colleges consider good SAT scores for admission

SAT preparation
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What is a good SAT score? The exam consists of two parts: Reading/Writing and Mathematics. There is also an optional essay section. The scores from each section can range from 200 to 800, so the best possible total score without the essay is 1600. The average score for each section is roughly 500, so the average total score is about 1000. Note that the exam changed significantly in March of 2016 (Learn about the new SAT).

Will You Get In? With this free tool from Cappex, enter your SAT scores and GPA to see how you measure up at your top choice schools: Calculate Your Chances of Getting In

Private Universities — SAT Score Comparison (mid 50%)

 ReadingMathGPA-SAT-ACT
Admissions
Scattergram
 25%75%25%75%
Carnegie Mellon University650740710800see graph
Columbia University690780690790see graph
Cornell University650750680780see graph
Duke University670760690790see graph
Emory University620720650770see graph
Harvard University700800700800see graph
Northeastern University660740680770see graph
Stanford University690780700800see graph
University of Pennsylvania680760700790see graph
University of Southern California620730650770see graph

Liberal Arts Colleges — SAT Score Comparison (mid 50%)

 ReadingMathGPA-SAT-ACT
Admissions
Scattergram
 25%75%25%75%
Amherst College680773680780see graph
Carleton College660750660770see graph
Grinnell College640740660770see graph
Lafayette College580670620710see graph
Oberlin College640740620710see graph
Pomona College670760690770see graph
Swarthmore College670760670770see graph
Wellesley College640740650750see graph
Whitman College600720600700see graph
Williams College670780660770see graph

Public Universities — SAT Score Comparison (mid 50%)

 ReadingMathGPA-SAT-ACT
Admissions
Scattergram
 25%75%25%75%
Clemson University560660590690see graph
University of Florida580670590680see graph
Georgia Tech630730680770see graph
The Ohio State University560670610720see graph
UC Berkeley610740640770see graph
UCLA580710600760see graph
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign570680700790see graph
University of Michigan630730660770see graph
UNC Chapel Hill600710620720see graph
University of Virginia620720630740see graph
University of Wisconsin560660630750see graph
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See typical scores in these SAT comparison tables: the Ivy League | top universities (non-Ivy) | top liberal arts colleges | more top liberal arts | top public universities | top engineering schools | top public liberal arts colleges | University of California campuses | Cal State campuses | SUNY campuses | Southeastern Conference | more SAT tables

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SAT scores aren't the most important part of a college application (your academic record is), but aside from colleges that are test-optional, they can play a big role in a school's admissions decision. Mediocre scores aren't going to cut it at the country's most selective colleges and universities. This article provides information and links for figuring what scores you're likely to need for different schools. If the ACT is your better exam, realize that you can almost always use either exam. This ACT version of this article can help guide you.

Nearly all colleges and universities make their SAT data public, and selective schools know that their reputations often depend upon high numbers. A college won’t be considered “highly selective” or “elite” if its students have an average SAT math score of 470, and selectivity is often one of the factors used in national rankings of schools.

Very few students get a perfect SAT score, even those at the country’s top colleges.

The table above shows the middle range of SAT scores for different schools. The middle 50% of admitted students fell within these numbers. Keep in mind that 25% of students who were admitted scored below the lower numbers listed here.

Finally, if you explore the A to Z college profiles, you'll find that some schools report critical reading and math scores, but not the writing scores. This is because the writing part of the exam never fully caught on when it was introduced in 2005, and many schools still do not use it in their admissions decisions. And when the redesigned SAT rolls out in 2016, the writing section will no longer be a required part of the test.